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The Science of Star Trek

THE SCIENCE OF STAR TREK Wormholes. Warp engines. Transporters. Replicators. Certainly, much of the universe as imagined by "Star Trek" creator Gene Rodenberry is truly science fiction. But how much of it is reality - or could ever be reality? MOST PLAUSIBLE TO LEAST PLAUSIBLE O COMMUNICATORS You can share images and videos on top of all that person That cell phone in your pocket? Pretty advanced stuff and more convenient than the communicators Kirk and Spock would flip open on an alien world to talk with the ship. -to-person communication, something that didn't even happen on "Star Trek." SHIP'S COMPUTERS Today's computers can render video game and movie special effects far more realistic than what appeared in the original "Star Trek" series and often more believable than those in newer The basic principle behind a single, all-controlling computer on a starship - voice commands, auto-pilot, navigation systems, simple questions - exist today in a variety of forms. From true voice command of computers to Apple's Siri assistant on its new iPhones. series - if not the newest in the film series. Computers are capable of combing databases to help track down criminal suspects and potential terrorists, helping law enforcement connect those dots. Computers have helped revolutionize every industry, from construction to health care. MATTER-ANTIMATTER POWER GENERATION So while it isn't yet possible to produce amounts of the substance that would be useful for power generation, this is another area The essential philosophy behind the propulsion of starships in the Star Trek universe is the reaction Scientists recently have created antimatter in microscopic quantities and are currently studying the physics applications of it. where the science of Star Trek is between matter and antimatter. basically plausible. IMPULSE ENGINES The technology doesn't exist yet, so we'll have to make due with our chemical-fueled rockets for Impulse engines are rockets based on a fusion reaction. now, but such innovation is within the bounds of real engineering - many years from now. ANDROIDS The sophistication required to allow a computer to totally replace a human brain simply doesn't exist and may never - but the bounds of computer science are being expanded all the time. The android Data is Lt. Commander Data, a fully a self-aware and intelligent human- seeming machine. artificial individual, is perhaps the ultimate goal of those striving to advance the cause of artificial intelligence. ALIENS They may not be as intelligent as we are and they probably don't look anything like us, but the chemical elements for carbon-based life (like that on Earth) are common throughout the universe. Most scientists now agree that life probably exists in other solar systems. O SENSORS AND TRICORDERS While not all of the sensors on the show are possible (like long-range sensors providing data immediately), the tricorders imagined on the show aren't that far removed from a doctor looking at a patient's X-ray on an iPad. We can take a 3D Today we can employ vibration sensors, sonar, radar, laser ranging, various kinds of light wavelength detectors and energetic particle detectors, and gravimeters. scan of the interior of solid objects (like the human body). CLOAKING DEVICES Very crude cloaking materials have been developed, but nothing resembling the ability to hide an entire ship from view. SHIELDS Scientists have conceptualized ways to protect space travelers from cosmic radiation by deflecting electrically charged objects using electromagnetic fields; this theory might resemble the impressive power of a starship's deflector arrays. TRACTOR BEAMS Large magnets, though not in beam form, potentially could tow some metal objects through space. ARTIFICIAL GRAVITY Scientist believe the creation Specially designed magnetic fields could do a similar job to the artificial gravity imagined in the realm of Star Trek, though it would wreak havoc on metal equipment. of artificial graviton particles is imaginable, but it's far beyond any technology or process that exists today. SUBSPACE COMMUNICATIONS There are no realistic physics behind the idea of subspace communications that would enable face-to-face discussions over distances of thousands of light-years. But the concept of subspace within a space continuum was discovered decades ago and is alive in physics today; theories say that our space-time may have a dozen dimensions. PHASERS The military currently has phaser-like stun weapons, Laser weapons, while still in development, have greatly advanced in capabilities. using microwaves to cause extreme discomfort to skin. HEALING RAYS There is some evidence that weak electrical currents The closest thing to the magical medical device that can heal broken bones or seal wounds is the or seal can accelerate the healing of bones - nothing like the almost immediate healing of the Star Trek sickbay. laser surgery doctors often use to cau tissue and repair detached retinas. REPLICATOR That's a far cry from a meal materializing from a replicator. Replication of simple structures is possible today via a printer-like device that creates objects by building layer upon layer of thin material. TRANSPORTER Small numbers of atoms and photons Nothing in today's world of physics comes close to the ability to take matter - a person - and beam them over great distances, sometimes through other matter, reconstituting them in perfect working order at the destination. have been teleported, though the principle use of this trick is likely to be in quantum computer development, which has the potential to solve highly complex mathematical problems extremely quickly. HOLODECK The potential for immersive realities has long been a dream of video game makers, but the problem exists in creating fully interactive, tangible environments. Assembling light in a hologram to produce a three-dimensional structure is simply too far beyond our capabilities today, though crude virtual reality environments do exist now. UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE TRANSLATOR There is little possibility such an invention could A purely imaginary device, the universal translator enabled plots to advance that involved people of many species without the hassle of learning each other's languages. ever become reality, as the re device translates to and from languages of newly discovered species. INTERSTELLAR WARP DRIVE Warp drive would depend on revolutionary discoveries in quantum physics, as even those physicists who are experts in space-time continuum research all say nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. WORMHOLE INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL AND TIME TRAVEL Neither of these discoveries, while a common occurrence throughout the Star Trek universe, is remotely possible by today's understanding of science. SOURCE BEST COMPUTER SCIENCE DEGREES David Allen Batchelor, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The Science of Star Trek

shared by absolutelytrue on Jun 04
Wormholes. Warp engines. Transporters. Replicators. Certainly, much of the universe as imagined by "Star Trek" creator Gene Rodenberry is truly science fiction. But how much of it is reality - or coul...


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